Study takes air out of wind farm

Published 8:07 pm Wednesday, May 23, 2012

There has been a lot of discussion about a proposed 80-megawatt wind farm to be built by Pantego Wind Energy LLC, a subsidiary of Chicago-based Invenergy, on 11,000 acres near Terra Ceia and Pantego in the eastern corner of Beaufort County. In March, the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners expressed unanimous support for the plan.

But a new preliminary estimate — based on five months of bird counts in Beaufort County — from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that the wind farm could injure or kill as many as 20 bald eagles a year. Conservative estimates may be as low as four bald eagles killed a year. The estimate did not include the potential risk to thousands of migratory snowbirds that visit that part of the state every year.

“That’s a shocking number,” Kelly Fuller, wind campaign coordinator at the American Bird Conservancy in Washington, was quoted as saying in the McClatchy News Service story. “Even if we look at the low number, killing four bald eagles a year would be killing more than the current acknowledged eagle deaths of all U.S. wind farms combined for the whole history of the U.S. wind industry.”

On the positive side, the wind farm would create some temporary and permanent jobs as well as increase property-tax revenues. Farmers in the area can expect to profit from property-lease payments.

But the downside may not be worth it. In addition to the threat to wildlife, there is the possibility that the energy generated at the wind farm would be sold to areas outside Beaufort County.

Serious consideration needs to be given to all aspects of this plan before the first turbine begins to turn. Once that happens, there is no turning back.